Eagles vs. Eagles, Part II, was a far cry from the original version.
The end result was the same, however, as Clay took sole possession of first place in the Three Rivers Athletic Association softball standings Friday by hanging on for a 4-3 win at Notre Dame.
Clay (16-2, 7-1 TRAC), ranked ninth in the Division I state coaches poll, banged out 14 hits, with all nine batters in the lineup getting at least one.
Despite leaving 11 runners on base, it was enough for the Eagles to overcome four errors in the field behind winning pitcher Brooke Gallaher.
“This is what I expected it to be last time,” Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said of the close outcome. “Notre Dame’s a very good team. We were on fire the last time we played them, and everything was clicking.
“Today we had a couple miscues on defense and gave them some opportunities. But we battled back and fought our way out of it. We came through with the bats, from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Everybody was contributing, and that’s what it takes.”
When these two teams met on April 17 at Clay, Gallaher fired a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 mercy-rule victory.
The host Eagles (10-6, 6-2) this time ended Gallaher’s no-hit bid when their starting pitcher Jenna Inman slapped a single to right field leading off the second inning. That hit sparked a two-run inning aided by two Clay errors.
After Inman was forced out on Nikki Wilkins’ fielder’s-choice grounder, Rachel Born singled, and the Eagles had runners at second and third following Clay right fielder Brooke Gyori’s throwing error.
One Notre Dame run scored on Cory Brinkman’s groundout, and the other came home when Clay catcher Emily Novak threw wildly to second.
That was all ND would get off Gallaher until the bottom of the seventh inning.
In between, Clay posted single runs in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh innings to take a 4-2 lead.
“Brooke [Gallaher] did a good job again of moving the ball in and out,” said Notre Dame coach Norm Kujawa, “and this time we did a better job, at least early on, of going with the pitch and picking better pitches to hit. As the game went on, though, we weren’t squaring up on the pitches very well. This game was more indicative of our team. We’ve been playing pretty well the last couple weeks.”
Clay’s Hanna Cowell singled and scored on the first of two doubles by Gyori in the second inning.
In the fifth, Gallaher (2-for-3) singled, Jamie Miller (2-for-3) doubled, and Novak (2-for-4) delivered an RBI single to tie the game.
Gyori’s second double led off the sixth and she scored on Lindsay Schiavone’s one-out single to right, which put Clay ahead 3-2.
Clay added a run in the seventh, when Novak reached on an error to start the inning. Haley Dominique’s sacrifice bunt enabled courtesy runner Courtney Quinlan to reach third base, and Quinlan then sped home when a ball-four pitch from ND reliever Cassie Gillespie skipped past catcher Brickman.
Notre Dame made a comeback bid in its final at bat. Mary Armbruster reached second base on a one-out throwing error by Clay third baseman Tessa Rice, and scored on Amanda DelMonte’s two-out single to left field.
But Inman’s groundout to second baseman Schiavone ended the game. Gallaher allowed six hits, struck out four batters, walk none, and hit two with pitches.
“It was very different this time,” Gallaher said. “We knew they were going to be hungry to try and nail us. We had to come together, and put our bats and our defense together.
“This was a very big win because it keeps us ahead in the league, and gives us a chance to win the league.”
Inman, who allowed nine hits, was relieved by Gillespie in the fifth inning after Clay had started with three straight hits to tie the game.